(Ben Cohen's note): While Bob Cesca shirks his responsibilities at The Daily Banter by selfishly getting married and having a honeymoon, Chez and myself have been left to do pretty much all the editorial heavy lifting in his absence. As the time for the mailbag neared, Chez and I stopped posting music videos and quotes from Russell Brand and began to panic. Who the fuck was going to be serious around here? Who actually knew anything about politics?
Turns out neither of us did, so rather than fake it, we drafted in Alyona Minkovski, presenter at the 'Huff Post Live' and recent Forbes Magazine '30 Under 30' media personality "who will clearly, without a doubt be running newsrooms, networks and ad agencies in 10 years time" to give us a hand. Alyona is whip smart, funny, and most importantly, extremely clued up about politics.
Alyona graciously took part in our weekly feature to offer her thoughts on the Obamacare website, 'Obamabots', the deficit and Halloween costumes.
1) Joan Walsh at Salon.com has criticized the coverage of the Obamacare website problems, saying that liberal pundits and reporters are overhyping them. Do you agree with her? Do you think taking the effect of criticism into consideration makes you an "Obamabot?"
Alyona: While I certainly believe there's too much focus on attention grabbing headlines and crises of the week, day, even minute thanks to the Twitterverse....the Obama administration messed up on healthcare.gov. Big time. The failure to get the exchanges up and running despite 3 years of prep time and more than 400 million dollars of taxpayer money spent is not a distraction if you ask me. While the larger conversation we should be having as a country is whether or not we think of access to healthcare as a human right, and how the ACA is a step within a broken system to provide health insurance to more people- if the government is to be the trusted vehicle through which we provide that healthcare, then the healthcare.gov example is a sad glimpse into the realities of bureaucracy. I must say, however, it would be nice for journalists to spend more time explaining to people just how the ACA works and what it is, so that politicians like Ted Cruz can't get away with claims that it will ruin our country without providing any facts.
As for the Obamabot question: no comment. I wouldn't want to call Ben names.
Chez: I saw the back-and-forth between her and Ezra Klein. I certainly don't think it's the responsibility of objective journalists to worry too much about the outcome of their reporting as long as it's merely a question of political messaging and not, you know, something that's potentially going to get someone killed. I understand what Walsh is saying, though, about how center-left pundits should probably step back and look at the big picture -- we try to do that a lot here -- before hitting the outrage button. Today's news organizations have one speed and that's flood-the-zone, the-sky-is-falling, because that's what draws eyeballs. There's very little nuance in the coverage we see from just about anywhere, and I think that's what Walsh is getting at -- amount- and tone-of-coverage-wise, the equating of some major issues with the ACA website to the Republicans literally shutting down the entire government and putting this country and the globe on the verge of economic catastrophe. Pointing out the problem with this doesn't make you an Obamabot.
Ben: In the scheme of things, launching a website with glitches in it isn't the greatest sin in the world (you have NO idea what it was like getting this site up and running...), but the attitude the press has taken over the Obamacare website is mostly justified given how badly they screwed it up. The website is fucking horrible. One of our own (and very talented) tech people, Sam Reed looked at it and literally couldn't believe what he saw. He wrote on his facebook wall:
It's Obama's signature achievement and he's spent a huge amount of political capital on getting it passed as law. To screw up the website after all the shit he's been through truly is pathetic and the administration deserves a shellacking for it. Having said that, I hear Walsh's point about taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. The major story is that millions more Americans get health care and those who have pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage. It's a big deal (even if it's very, very far from perfect), and crappiness of the website won't really matter in the long run. (Does that make me an Obamabot btw?)
2) A hypothetical. If the deficit continues to decrease as projected over the rest of President Obama's turn, and a Democrat wins in 2016 and continues the trend and moves us into a surplus, how do you think the Right would react then? Are they so in love with reducing the debt that they would applaud it, or would they claim we are being taxed too much?
Ben: Jason, President Obama is further to the right policy for policy than Richard Nixon, and the Republicans claim he's a Marxist socialist. Obama could cut taxes to zero, gut the EPA, and personally take food stamps back from every poor black/minority/immigrant family in America and it still wouldn't make a blind bit of difference. They don't care about the deficit or whether there's a surplus. They're just anti whatever Obama is.
Chez: Wait, are you asking if the Right will ever give the Democrats any credit at all for their successes or attempt to at least play a role in them so they can claim partial victory? Is that what you're asking? Because, well, have you been asleep for the last five years?
Alyona: If the deficit continues to decrease, I'm assuming this is happening thanks to massive budget cuts. Is credit for austerity measures that cut social services and public programs really something Democrats want credit for? And if you think that the government can cut spending responsibility and by applying logic, let me direct you to the sequestration fiasco as proof to the contrary. For the sake of the question, if the government starts running a surplus, the words bipartisanship will never sound so sweet to Republicans. They'll pat themselves on the back no matter what.
3) What are you dressing up as for Halloween?
Alyona: Due to a lack of time and creativity, I will be Wednesday Addams from the Addams Family for a Halloween party this weekend. Essentially that means wearing all black like I do everyday, and just braiding my hair. I did recently get called the "princess of propaganda" (referring to my RT days, no doubt) on twitter however, so if anyone has a tiara and flags and corporate logos for me to drape around my body- I'll take 'em.
Ben: I live in DC, so I was thinking of dressing up as a member of Congress. That oughta scare the shit out of people.
Chez: The usual -- a bitter, middle-aged drunk.